Are plans to cut school buses breaking UN laws?

School bus cuts protest leaving Kirkfieldbank
School bus cuts protest leaving Kirkfieldbank

The United Nations is used to settling international disputes and even wars – but it could now be asked to also step into Clydesdale’s school bus cuts row.

South Lanarkshire Council is proposing to increase the qualifying distance for free school transport to the area’s four secondary schools from two miles to three miles.

However, parents battling to block the move sensationally claimed this week that the council could be breaching the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child if they did so.

The parents, led by Kirkfieldbank mother Laura Marrs and including concerned mums and dads of youngsters attending Carluke, Biggar and Lesmahagow High Schools, along with Lanark Grammar, now want the council to postpone its planned ‘crunch’ meeting on August 26 to finalise the cuts so they can consider the legal position.

Laura Marrs said: “I have long believed that the council have a duty of care to ensure walking routes to and from schools are safe and have, with my colleague Stuart Clark, compiled a risk assessment for the route from Kirkfieldbank to Lanark Grammar School. This has been sent to the council with a request to be sent their risk assessment for this and other routes. I await their response.

“I have also been in contact with the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, to ask whether the council would be in breach of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“The commissioner’s office has been very helpful and their reply would suggest that the council are potentially in breach of Article 12 of the Convention and two areas of legislation.

“I have written to the council to alert them to this.

“The vote by the Executive Committee is planned for August 26 in council headquarters in Hamilton’s County Buildings at 10am.

“The Kirkfieldbank/Lanark protest group will be linking up with other groups across the region to protest at and attend this meeting although my hope is that, in light of the information I have supplied to the council, the vote may be delayed until a proper consultation and assessment of walking routes is carried out.”

She said of the Convention: “It emphasises that public bodies must ascertain the impact on children of their actions in order to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration.”

Council executive director of education resources Jim Gilhooly said: “The council is of the view that the consultation was undertaken in line with statutory requirements. A letter was received from Mrs Marrs and she can expect to receive a full response. The consultation report will be considered on August 26 2015.”